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Inland Inequality

Cleaver family photo in public domain

Cleaver family photo in public domain

Princeton Economist Angus Deaton, who just received the nobel prize in economic science for his studies of consumption, commented on the current refugee crisis sweeping Europe by expressing sympathy for those who have been uprooted by poverty and war and noting “what we’re seeing now is the result of hundreds of years of unequal development in the rich world, which has left a lot of the world behind.”

This obliquely brings to my mind the story in Sunday’s Oct. 11, 2015 San Francisco Chronicle how The City is experiencing a “tale of two cities” both as a Renaissance center akin to Florence in the early 15th century, but at the same time a “French Revolution” with an affordability crisis, a rash of evictions, grimy streets, closing of businesses dependent on minimum wage labor and a worsening homeless problem. Those not included in the bubble are seeking homes in less costly inland portions of California.

Deaton’s comment also parallels the unequal geographic distribution within California of “households struggling to get by,” particularly the contrast between the San Francisco Bay Area and inland counties such as Fresno, Tulare and Kern in the San Joaquin valley and San Bernadino, Riverside and Imperial in the Inland Empire.

Joe Mathews, California & Innovation editor of Connecting California column for Zocalo Public Square ironically suggests that “California should position itself as a mecca for the poor.” He observes that “poor people are leaving our expensive and crowded coastal counties—which now have the costliest housing and densest urban communities in the United States—in search of places where they can improve their standard of living, and find a home and space.” Mathews admonishes “we should start by supporting—and treasuring—our growing poor cities… Today, municipalities all over the country are all chasing the same narrow swath of creative college-educated hipsters with tech skills. Might it be more advantageous, in this age of American inequality, for a state to champion cities that attract poor people, and to figure out ways for those cities to do better by their residents?

That idea may be as popular as Mathews wry pitch that “California needs more old people“. But maybe the new California dream should be about “being able to retire here, and of having kids who can afford to stick around themselves so we can see our grandkids?”

We just got back from visiting San Francisco and are proud to call Redding home our “upstream dream.”